In recent times, my stance on pixel art for games has shifted from believing them to be retro and outdated to seeing their potential for beauty, how well they convey feelings and how easy it is to make them look good. As a result, I have begun working on a new game that uses pixel art as its base.
I created a design document first (after playing around in Aseprite and seeing what I could do) in order to really get my ideas rolling into some form of clarity. Too many times have I seen game ideas fall apart because the people working on them didn't have a clear idea of what they really wanted. I even came up with the name for the project during this stage.
My next step was to further clarify my thoughts, since I felt I had a rough idea but couldn't really picture much. I almost didn't upload this because it's just a hasty list of words slapped into a document as I began to build ideas in my head, then edited slightly so I can still make sense of it later, but then I felt that it'd be interesting to a lot of people to see the thought process, and this improvised tool could be very helpful to others as well.
Finally, I sharted out a load of quick character designs in a large Aseprite document and showed them to people, trying to find a style to settle into. In the end, I decided on a mid-to-high-saturated no-outline style, looking a bit like this:
All the while I'm collecting inspirational images from Pinterest and Twitter, by the way. I mention this because it's now that I went into photoshop and cooked up a preliminary promotional poster to really get me thinking about how I want to style the game:
Obviously this uses someone else's work as the background (sorry I didn't reference it) but it will not be used to actually promote the game at all.
It was at this point that I actually created a colour palette for the game. I had taken colours from some of my inspirations to make the character, and I took some of my favourite colours from that palette for the new one, then took some nice greens and blues from a different fantasy RPG, then matched up my primary colours, added a darker and lighter shade for each, as well as a set of black-grey-white gradients.
Now I'm starting to think about the environment designs, and it's taken me back to the design document. There's three main characters, all from different places, and all the locations have different genres. From this, I got the idea to select four colours to represent four locations, and just jam on that base. I call this tool a Style Banner. I haven't finished it yet.
Lastly, sometime throughout this process, I started using hack'n'plan - a Trello-like tool specifically designed for games designers. I first used it back in college, and it proved useful then, so of course it's going to be helpful now.
As you can see, I set my promotional poster as the background to help keep me motivated.